Saturday, October 15, 2005

Running The Meter At City Hall

Is everybody screwing around at Toronto City Hall these days?

No sooner have licensing chief Pam Coburn and her high-flying married boyfriend Joseph Carnevale been fired than we find a report of a taxi enforcement officer using his powers to help his girlfriend's taxi company beat its closest competitor:

At the centre of the city probe are allegations that Colin MacLeod was involved in a personal relationship with the owner of East End Taxi, Kim Jacobs. Its rival — Crown Taxi — was allegedly targeted by MacLeod's inspectors last year.

Senior city officials first learned of the concerns in July, when an industry insider working for an East End Taxi rival company alleged MacLeod was personally involved with Jacobs while directing his enforcement officers to target a competitor.


After hearing the allegations, both the city's licensing department and the city auditor launched investigations into discrepancies in enforcement actions against cab companies, the Toronto Star has learned.


Crown Taxi, which is a direct competitor of East End Taxi operating largely in the city's east end, was the "target" of a sudden and unprecedented spike in enforcement actions over a seven-month period last year, said company general manager Ernie Grzincic.

"Charges laid (by city inspectors) against my operation cumulatively over 18 years might be 10," Grzincic said. "Last year it was 80.... Certainly I feel I was targeted. Some of the tickets were warranted. A lot of them were really unnecessary and they just seemed to come as a wave."

One licensing inspector with the city, who asked not to be named, said MacLeod directed him and his colleagues to do targeted inspection checks of Crown Taxi's global positioning system (GPS). In addition to checking the tires and interiors of city cabs to ensure they meet safety stands, inspectors also have the authority to test the operation of cabs equipped with GPS — a system that constantly tracks the location of a company's cabs.

You read it right, folks. The person who ordered the investigation of an underling using his office to help his girlfriend was the woman using her office to help her boyfriend: Pam Coburn!

Even without this strange coincidence, the taxi business in Toronto suffers from its own unique problems.

Most taxi licence owners don't drive cabs themselves: they rent the licences to cab drivers who sometimes pay as much as $1,000 a month.

Licence owners also used to be able to pass them down to family members or sell them on the open market, sometimes for over $100,000, while drivers used to wait 15 or 20 years to get their own licences.

Although more licences are getting issued through the Ambassador program, cab drivers' real incomes have been falling over the past 10 years as more cabs chase fewer dollars and gas prices keep rising.

Having a boyfriend in City Hall harass the competition is probably the least of the dirty tricks in the taxi business. Cab companies' relations with City Hall are strained even at the best of times. Crown Taxi will almost certainly sue, whether this guy's head rolls or not. And every cab company is going to wonder which enforcement officers are in bed with their competitors, figuratively, if not literally.

Source: Toronto Star


Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

It's amazing what effect close friends "Neil" and "Bob" have on employees of city hall...